Also known as ‘The Saturn Path’ or the ‘Northern Path of Initiation’
A way of awakening Self in community
A large part of being human is about finding a way of life that brings happiness. Things that conspire against happiness come as much from inside us as from outside, indeed often one is a reflection of or response to the other. Thus creating goodness in our lives is as much about creating beauty or harmony in our social group as it is about being true to ourselves.
Amongst the many Ways of finding happiness through developing truth, beauty and goodness available today one can find extremes of escape from the trials of the world such as the Non-Dual way of the ancient east and extremes of mastery that create wealth and power found in the modern west. Between these Ways lie many deep and beautiful philosophies and practices. Wherever you turn you can find external practices of religion and behind them more subtle esoteric understandings. Seeking a Way that can bring beauty and truth and goodness into the personal soul can be fraught with concerns and disagreements. Many groups have fragmented and re-fragmented down the centuries. What is presented here is a Way that addresses exactly these difficulties. What is offered here are practices through which we can create and discover community amongst difference, respect for our common essential humanity and the discovery of how Love grows differently in each of us in order to feed the diverse beauties of the world.
In my own life I have sought amongst many, Scientologists, gurus, shamans of the four directions and returned again and again to the Way described by Rudolf Steiner as combining head, heart and hand in most fruitful patterns.
Rudolf Steiner’s path of initiation is a path by which we may learn to encourage and enable the Presence of the Cosmic Christ in all beings. Once we become aware that the Cosmic Christ – the Logos nature of all existence – is seeking to gradually lead us from understanding to enabling, from wisdom to love as a path of self-manifestation, we can see that each and all of our actions are aids or blocks to this manifestation of the Self of all humanity.
For those not familiar with Steiner’s work I should emphasise the difference between Christ as used by the churches to refer to an historical figure, exclusive to believers and the Cosmic Christ as portrayed by Steiner as the formative force of all existence, present in all things, the true centre of the experience of ‘I’ in each of us. As the universal I AM the Cosmic Christ is not an imposition, does not deny the validity of anyone’s religion, beliefs or experience nor is it exclusive, demanding belief in anything in order to qualify, ‘it’ is simply the architect of our being, the core of our experience of being human.
Two pillars of this great work of Steiner’s are the manifesting of the Presence of the Cosmic Christ within the personal self as laid out in his book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and empowerment of that Presence in the other as laid out in his ‘Saturn Path.’
As one of his last works, and no doubt something he would have expanded on in greater detail had he lived longer, he describes a little of this Way in the 10th Lecture of True and False Paths (Torquay, GA 243)
This Macrocosmic Way, approaching the manifesting and enabling of the Presence in other beings, lies as a core activity in all the practical activities of the anthroposophical movement. Within medicine, agriculture, the sciences etc. lies this search to empower the presence of the formative principle, the Logos that leads us from what is to what might be, from wisdom to love. While Steiner makes passing references to this in other places it is in the Torquay lectures that he describes a social activity or group study different from anything practised before; different to any spiritual study recorded in spiritual literature of east or west. In this ‘group of equals agreeing to develop at the speed of the slowest’ – at least this is my understanding of the Saturn path – he portrays a level of recognition of Christ in the other penetrating right into the will.
If I truly know that Christ lives in you and that discovering the Christ in you is slightly less prone to illusion than discovering Him in myself, I begin my search, confident that in your presence I already have what I seek. Why should I seek to go faster than you can? To do so would be to leave behind the goal of my search. To desire to move on beyond the slowest in the group would be to enter again the personal soul, fraught with illusion as described in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and give up the guidance of the Presence as it exists in you.
The phrase ‘Saturn path’ refers to a path quite different from that given in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, which starts from our own earthly centre, expanding consciousness out into the moon sphere and beyond. The Saturn path of awakening through service to the Christ in You is beginning our journey of awakening from outside of our small, everyday self, beginning from the full circle of the solar system that defines our eternal being and working inwards, creating from the beginning a commonality of purpose that the moon path sets as a goal. The Saturn path rests in the recognition that I am You and that any attempt to supersede that truth weakens me.
Perhaps because Steiner did not develop his vision of a focused, conscious pursuit of this Saturn path beyond the little he gave in the above mentioned lecture cycle, few groups within the anthroposophical movement have developed this practice as group work. I believe there is room for co-developing a new practice here and would be happy to pool my experience.
Given that Steiner’s work was all in service to the Archangel Michael and relevant to this age, it is not surprising that aspects of it have been developed by others who may not have even heard of Rudolf Steiner nor be in conscious relationship with Michael as a name. About ten years ago I began to participate in circles practicing attitudes and exercises that I slowly began to recognise as ‘Saturn path.’ These circles were inspired by Adam Bradpiece. Adam has no website and writes no books, out of a commitment to holding his enquiry deeper than written knowledge can convey. Adam takes no new students out of a commitment to stay with those who have started a path with him. Many of his students hold circles for others. The ‘embodied spirituality’ that characterises this work recognises that noticing our deep response consciously is part of creating community. Discovering levels of self honesty integral with compassion became part of my personal “consciousness soul” development. Eventually I recognised both the presence of after-image awareness as well as the Saturn path patterns in this work.
Aspects of this work are practiced in various places by various groups and are generally known as ‘circle work.’ These might be ‘listening circles’ such as practiced by various religious and educational groups or ‘empathy circles’ as promoted by Edwin Rutsch’s Empathy Movement. Circle work becomes particularly effective when we add in commitment to the group and the principle of equality over an agreed period of time. Connecting conscious personal spiritual development with the specific direction of seeking the riddle of one’s essential humanity through listening deeply to Its Presence in the other creates a path of awareness through this activity that I believe Rudolf Steiner was beginning to hint at. The longer the period of commitment the deeper this work can go.
Work of this sort challenges a number of pre-conceptions common in anthroposophical work. Distinguishing between thinking and knowledge is hugely important to gauge the meaning of Steiner’s insistence on dropping intellectual thought. For this work to be effective it is important to be able to expand the meditative space, release temporarily all head thinking and listen more deeply into the after-images that rise up in our etheric body. These skills are developed by this work. Participants need only to be open to them. Fully integrating our three-fold Self means that even the way we move can reveal us to ourselves and the practice of consciously discovering oneself through movement “embodied awareness” is a valuable accessory
Rudolf Steiner based much of his work on familiarity with inner silence. What I often see happening today is that the sheer extent and complexity of anthroposophical content can actually work against stillness, or against a felt awareness of the Presence of the Cosmic Christ. Only the true digestion of Steiner’s work, the ‘destruction’ of its form to release its sustaining content, allows one to discover the inner peace at its core. Journeys into the Saturn path will challenge any lack of inner quiet. Only thoroughly digesting our adopted truths will allow us to truly see the true centre of humanity in the other.
Exercises developed in groups doing Saturn path work – by any other name – slowly build trust and acceptance of the other person. They support the individuation of the modern human being while creating a direct relationship with our common humanity, together enabling levels of community that people often struggle towards.
Imagine sitting face to face with someone and holding their gaze for ten minutes at a time while gently observing one’s inner responses. Watching how small movements of the other’s face change the way hope, unease, trust, concern move within one’s soul. Watching how one’s normal tendency to flow into the other person can be checked and a new ability to stay with oneself grows. How a short period of closing one’s eyes brings one back to resting more in oneself. How one’s usual need to know what might be said next either by oneself or by the other becomes irrelevant in the actual observation of the moment. The act of sitting in the gaze, outward to the other while inward to one’s own soul life becomes the texture of the moment. 1 Essentially this becomes an ongoing reflection on after-images and one’s relationship with them, increasing ‘Consciousness Soul’ exponentially.2
Or, imagine asking the other person a simple question: Maybe, “What makes you feel safe in life?” and not needing to know the answer so much as to be there, attentive to them but watching also what arises in oneself, while the other hears themselves speak. And when they have spoken out asking them the same question, again and again. Being asked the same question again and again can allow levels of self-perception to arise that had not previously reached conscious awareness.3
Bringing into a circle4 experiences from these and other exercises5, sharing the ways in which we find ourselves challenged, holding our attention while the other finds courage to face aspects of themselves that spiritual reading alone, even private meditation may not have given them strength to face, has proven fruitful in awakening many individuals into a deeper relationship with their human soul and revealing the presence of the Cosmic Christ, the true I AM. I have found this to be a path that builds strength to stand in my own truth and awareness of the continual Presence of the silent witness of this Presence in my own soul life. I have watched this process in others, seen it build community and seen it strengthen the ability to bring personal gifts into reality in ways that deepen individual life and benefit the world.
Exercises described here will be part of “The Sunrise of the Heart,” a four day retreat at Hawkwood College with Tobias Kaye, (Sounding Bowls) and Wilhelmina Swindell (Phonetic therapies) January 6 -10, 2017. Contact Hawkwood: 01453 759034
- Generally known as Gazing this exercise has been slowly refined by various groups over the last 40 years. It is good to begin sitting close across from the other with your eyes closed in a short presence meditation noticing where one is in oneself. On feeling well centred open the eyes and allow the field of vision to ‘come to one’ more than going out to meet it as one typically does. Focus on the eyes of the person in front of you, if they are closed notice how your feelings change as their eyes open. Notice how one tends to rush ‘out’ to meet the other as our social self expects us to do and rest back, allowing this miracle of a person in front to part of what is coming to you through the eyes. Balance between the wonder and beauty of the moment and steady awareness of one’s inner responses is the central theme of this exercise.
- Consciousness Soul is described by Steiner in his book Theosophy as that stage of soul development when our awareness of ourselves penetrates into the physical organism and we become aware of who is doing the thinking, the feeling and taking action, what is actually swirling through my loves, fears and judgments. It is a stage of development particularly pertinent to the modern age.
- Generally referred to as enquiry this exercise typically begins with a minute or two of gazing then whichever one has agreed to be the first questioner asks the agreed question and holds the gaze, holds the awareness of their inner responses while the other speaks. If the speaker runs out of things to say the questioner repeats the question giving space for the other to answer until the allotted time is passed or extending it until it is felt there truly is no more to say.
- Sitting in circle allowing space for things to be spoken is perhaps the central ingredient of this type of work. Begin a circle with a few minutes of silent ‘presence.’ A time to centre, for each person to notice their inner state of being and let go of tensions or concerns they may be carrying. For each person to begin to become aware of the subtle movement of feeling in the circle, expressed in the sounds and in one’s own inner response to being present, now in this circle. To sit in circle with an attitude like this, being aware of one’s inner state of being while alert to others creates a space in which a person may then bring concerns from their daily or inner life. The effect of bringing such things is twofold. Firstly simply to be heard by others who are genuinely listening and by oneself is powerful. Secondly there is the opportunity for others to speak to what they discover arising in themselves in response. What is thus spoken in response can be helpful to the degree to which the speaker is self-aware, compassionate and present. If I speak out of reaction to what someone has said it is my fears and judgements that are speaking, no matter how I might dress them up as sympathy, ‘my own experience’ or whatever. Obviously this is less helpful and what arises as the after-image and response in others in the circle can help me to see where I have been unconscious of my inner fears and judgements as it can help the first speaker to notice where they may have had unconscious self-condemnation happening also. It can be helpful during this circle process to have one person focussing the circle and to have one person carrying the circle. Carrying is done by agreeing not to speak and paying full ongoing attention to one’s own inner responses, the after images that arise constantly within following changes in the group atmosphere of “field.” The complexity of this process, the need for a genuine interest in compassionate self-awareness, the need to be able to drop below our mind’s agenda, to let drop below our normal feelings and watch, genuinely the rise and fall of responsive movements in the body, breath and deeper feelings underlines Adam Bradpiece’s reluctance to write and emphasis on direct teaching. Practiced with compassion and a powerful desire for self-awareness this process is the most community building aspect of this “Saturn Path” work and shows up just how much we each are aspects of the other, how the one self-of-all-humanity lives individuated in each of us.
- Heart Dialogue is another principle exercise of this work. Again this begins with Gazing.1 Once one has settled into a feeling of presence in the mutual gaze Dialogue begins with either one speaking something from their experience of the moment. It might be as simple as “I notice a tension in my neck” or more complex, like “I notice some upset in me from yesterday’s anger” but should always refer to the present perception rather than anything from another time or place. ~ When you speak do so from an inner response to the moment. Notice what is passing or occupying your attention and mention it. Speak as a sharing of your space of self, your only intent to offer this sharing. ~ When you hear the other speak allow yourself to notice what happens in you. How thoughts gather around the meaning of the words, how our socially conditioned desire to respond links with our desire to be felt in the space outside of us. Drop out of these thoughts and notice instead movements within, the after-image that came before the thoughts. ~ Speak from the inner perception of how you are in this moment, now that you have given attention to all that is passing through you. ~ This is in part about breaking the tyranny of needing to have a good time or a pleasant experience, and getting more interested in what is actually happening, than in what you’d like to be happening, or what you think should be happening. What will happen will happen. Either a sense of connection, intimacy and Presence will open, or you’ll meet whatever is getting in the way. ~ Heart Dialogue is described from another perspective in Whole Body Listening
When I first started sharing opinions here I felt that, as a woodworker, I had no right to offer more than my workmanship. Accordingly I used to preface each article with this introduction. Today I moved this to the bottom.
The simple philosophy behind the Sounding Bowls is one of Presence.
If one is truly Present to what goes on the world blossoms under one’s hand and eye.
By practicing Presence to the wood and the moment of this cut, Awareness of the meaningful flow of this curve, Mindfulness of the purpose behind Sounding Bowls and in front of this particular one (what/who it is being made for) we can watch how the purposeful nature of existence flowers into a potential that is held in the form and the substance of the instrumental/sculptures we make.
Behind and beyond this there is a philosophy of the nature of existence that seeks to go further, look deeper than modern science has yet travelled. While physics has now got to the point of realising that there is no-thing there, that subatomic particles are more like waves yet are not truly waves either and that identifying the nature of the structure of substance is like watching minute events unfold only to disappear again, not traceable in location unless unknown in size, not traceable in mass/energy/effect unless unplaceable in space but it has not answered the ages old question of how we perceive solid matter when both it and our bodies are known to be more space than particle and even the particles turn out to be events.
Against this background other meaningful questions remain: Why does music move us so powerfully? Where do we go when we sleep, or die? What is the nature of Love?… Only turning to a spiritual world view begins to address these questions yet most spiritual world views fall down on explaining why matter behaves as it does. Within a spiritual world view is the assumption that the human being, indeed consciousness in all forms, is based outside of the time-space continuum and manifests within in with deliberate purpose. The nature of that purpose and how we may most fruitfully regulate ourselves within remain the important ingredients that distinguish one spiritual philosophy from another.
It has been my own path to pursue these questions. Having been brought up in a family inspired by Rudolf Steiner and practicing bio-dynamic/organic farming, Waldorf education and other life-ways inspired from a spiritual world view I have sought out and studied a variety of world views from Rosicrucian to Shamanic, from Buddhist to Scientology, from non-dual through dualist to troilist and returned again and again to Rudolf Steiner’s deep and loving philosophy whose complex nature covers cosmology, the nature of perception and matter, Ways of enlightenment and ways of serving the essential nature of being human in others as in oneself. During this path I have been through the predictable tunnel of darkness and been re-born or awakened on the other side to a whole new level of service, a whole new level of learning that is, as it was on the one side, ongoing. The only difference now is that the learning happens more easily with slightly less resistance from the personality.
It is from this background that each article in this esoteric section is written and you will find this header in italics on each esoteric article.